The Elephant in the Room is Cancer. Tea is the Relief Conversation Provides.

How to Support Friends Through Survivor’s Guilt

by Justine MartinSurvivor, Thyroid CancerFebruary 20, 2024View more posts from Justine Martin

I think it is important to support cancer patients who are going through their cancer journey. There are many cancer survivors who are struggling with survivor’s guilt and have lost someone who has been through cancer. It’s really sad to see someone going through cancer and treatment who is also grieving someone who has passed away from cancer.

I have experienced survivor’s guilt as a thyroid cancer survivor. I have been in full remission from thyroid cancer for three years now. It was really hard on me when I was first diagnosed with papillary carcinoma thyroid cancer in June 2020. I wish the doctors could’ve caught it sooner rather than later. In 2020 after I had my total thyroidectomy surgery, it made me feel angry, lost, frustrated, sad, and depressed going through this cancer scare. I asked, “Why me,” and I didn’t know why I had to go through thyroid cancer because I was 36 years old. I was too young to have cancer. 

I lost both of my jobs due to COVID. I also lost my job coach, my friends, and myself. I did have a lot of people who were praying for me and encouraging me. 

I was angry and hurt when my friends and my neighbors in Arizona didn’t support me as much as I wanted. I felt unloved, unwanted, isolated, and lonely. I didn’t have a cancerversary celebration like I have always wanted to do. I didn’t get a cake or any other treats that I would like to have whenever I am celebrating a big milestone from thyroid cancer. This year in two weeks, I’ll be celebrating my three-year cancerversary on August 28, 2023. It will be three years of being cancer free from thyroid cancer.

It was really hard, hurtful, and made me sad when I didn’t get to celebrate my three-year cancerversary during bunco night. It really broke my heart and it felt disrespectful to me. I felt very lonely. 

It’s not my fault that I had thyroid cancer. I have a lot of mixed emotions after going through thyroid cancer, but I need to let it go and give it to God. I don’t like the regret that comes with dealing with survivor’s guilt, and with the mixed emotions sometimes I place blame on someone who isn’t supporting me. But I need to stop blaming myself and stop placing blame on others. I think it is important to forgive ourselves and others. It is OK not to be OK, but I need to stop talking about negative things and stay positive. 

All cancer patients and survivors deserve support. I think it is important to have a good cancer support group, grief group, and counseling like in church to help someone get through this. I have lost a lot of people in my life who have passed away from cancer, like my aunt, my high school friend, my Bible study friend Shirley, and my neighbor Barb, who died from brain cancer. It was really hard to see them suffering from cancer, but I got to honor them by doing a World Cancer Day 5k Walk and doing track and field in the special Olympics in Regionals and at State in Washington for 24 years. Last year I got to honor them with a gold medal. I know that they are smiling down from heaven, and I have remained strong for them. I know I will see them again in heaven. 

We all need to support, encourage, and love cancer survivors who are grieving someone who has passed away from cancer. I am really grateful that I have survived thyroid cancer for three years. I think survivor’s guilt is like listening to the enemy’s lies or negative things that make us feel guilty, resentful, and responsible for our actions. We all have doubts and are dealing with fear, but I never let that steal the joy and happiness and all the blessings that God has given me. We need to stay strong and be brave. God is not done with me and He is fighting for me in my battle now, just like he did for me three years ago as I was going through thyroid cancer. I have let go of my fears about thyroid cancer and given them to God.

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